Sammy Ward reviews Luc Besson’s 1995 classic “Léon: The Professional” starring Jean Reno and Natalie Portman, which she says has “a script with originality, a sound plot and meaningful characters”.
Aloof Jean Reno alongside tiny punk Natalie Portman make a compelling duo in what has to be on the top of the list for action/thriller movies: Leon – The Professional (1994). When 12-year-old Mathilda (Portman) comes home to discover her family has been murdered by the narcissistic and sadist Stanfield (Gary Oldman), neighbour Leon (Reno) reluctantly takes her under his protection. Unperturbed on discovering Leon’s profession as a hit-man, Mathilda asks Leon to be her mentor. She wants to avenge her family, and in return she will clean for him, do his shopping and teach him to read. Thus, a peculiar relationship unfolds.
When it comes to the films of writer and director Luc Besson, it’s a series of hits and misses. Take Lucy (2014), an anticipated sci-fi thriller which disappointed many with lackluster action sequences and underdeveloped characters. Leon, however, has well refined characters and a solid plot. We care about Leon and Mathilda, the tribulations they go through and the unconventional way they care about each other. Set in his ways, Leon has learnt to stay distant from people, but Mathilda’s openness and warmth despite losing everything teaches Leon to really live for something. It is troubling to see a child amidst so much violence, but the acting is extremely sophisticated. But everything is Mathilda’s choice, which makes this such an effective thriller.
One of Besson’s many talents is bringing humour and hope to what is a tragically sad situation. It is definitely unorthodox for a young girl to live with an assassin but the dynamic of the relationship is humorous when you come to realize that Leon comes to depend on Mathilda. Another talent of Besson’s is creating an evil force the audience can respectively love and hate. Maybe Lucy just needed Gary Oldman to play the big bad guy. Should Oldman go back to playing his grandeur villainous characters? Back to the point, which is: Leon – The Professional proves a thrilling story with in-depth characters that can be portrayed with visually brilliant but purposeful action sequences and with some brilliant twists.
Besson can always pull off an original idea, and he has a visual style when directing which gives him credit as an auteur. With no directorial work set, Besson is currently working on the screenplays for Transporter sequels, though without Jason Statham as the hero it doesn’t look too promising. Let’s hope Besson can still write a script with originality, a sound plot and meaningful characters like he did with Leon.